Model, Text and Photos by: Mark Smith
This 1/48 Ki-61-I short-nosed Hien was the first model released by the short-lived Right Staff, who later called themselves T.C. Berg. In their brief time on this bitter earth, they brought us two Tony variants, an A5M4 Claude, and a Ki-44 Shoki. They were not user-friendly and they weren't cheap, but they sure made nice models in the end.
was my first experience with a resin model and as heavy as it was, I kept thinking
I would drop it before I was done. It's a beautiful kit, but its major drawback
is one I never solved to my satisfaction: the lack of sufficient wing dihedral.
It would be a tough fix with the wing being a one piece casting. Oddly, the
Hasegawa kit has the same problem (they are not based on the same masters).
The fuselage halves fit poorly, with a warp that had to be corrected, and superglue was used liberally for a filler in the wing to fuselage joints, especially underneath. Also, one caveat there: rescribing those panel lines across seams was more difficult in that resin is so much softer than superglue. If you use superglue, don't apply it unless you're going to immediately sand it while it's still soft and will feather easily.
The one-piece canopy in a kit that costs so much was a crime. Karma-wise, that should of been enough to put them out of business alone! I remember that I was glad to have both of the Squadron canopies (for Otaki and their later release to fit the Hasegawa kit). I can't remember which, but one of them fit the RS kit better for the windshield, and one worked better for the sliding hood. The aft stationary part was sawed from the kit canopy for the sake of fit. That area is worth the extra work, as the kit's canopy is a tad cloudy and the cockpit is well rendered.
The landing gear doors that are so lovely and thin were a pain to keep from bending, they are not hardy. When I handled them for painting I pressed only the extreme edge onto sticky-backed tape mounted on heavy card stock before spraying. The airfoil surfaces are faithfully thin in places, but that means they are really fragile; I broke the tip of the vertical fin off and had to graft in a piece cut from the Hasegawa kit.
The interior of this kit is just superb, and was my favorite part of building it. I used Tamiya Khaki straight out of the bottle and it matched Model Art paint chips very nicely.
This aircraft, #43 of the 244th Sentai, has been my favorite Tony since the day I received "Japanese Army Air Wings" for a birthday present in 1972 and was so impressed with the photos therein. I have since found, courtesy of Dan Salamone, that it is believed to have been flown by Corporal Yukio Ishioka, Soyokaze-tai, Chofu airfield. (The Soyokoze-tai was one of the squadrons making up the Sentai, along with the Toppu-tai, Mikazuki-tai, HQ Squadron, and the Shinten Seiku-tai, an air-to-air ramming unit).
To finally get it on the shelf only took
26 years. The 244th insignia was oddly detailed as far as the white trim (I
think it's possible that painting was "in-progress" when those photos
were taken in March 1945) and is a kit decal with painted trim. The lightning
stripe on the fuselage is stenciled and airbrushed. The landing gear door numbers
are hand made with paint and decal stock. Later photos which have surfaced have
shown pretty clearly that the plane did not have the yellow part of the fuselage
band, but a wide white and narrower red one.
Still, with five good quality wartime photos, and two taken after the war, it was a veritable bonanza - pretty rare for a Japanese airplane to find that much specific evidence. In the postwar pictures, the entire tail had been painted red and the 244th insignia reapplied, as the aircraft had been transferred from the Soyokaze-tai to the HQ Shotai or a special attack unit.
With Hasegawa coming out with this early
variant any time now, the modeler's choices for Tony paint schemes have grown
considerably. It's a great kit, too - build and enjoy!
Ed.: The Right Staff kit is long out of production, but the Hasegawa kit is currently available:
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